Usually, I hate film adaption of novels. It tends to be that nothing on the screen can match up with what I’ve imagined while reading the book. It seems to be that the only way I can enjoy a film adaption is if I watch it before I read the book, letting the film influence my reading rather than letting my reading influence my viewing.
That was my experience with Little Women. The 1994 film directed by Gillian Armstrong is by far one of my favourite movies. Considering the film came out the year I was born, it’s not too much of a stretch to say I’ve been watching and re-watching this movie my whole life. It wasn’t up until January this year that I finally read the book. I’d been thinking about reading Little Women for a while, but was worried my knowledge of the movie might ruin the book. Then, I saw an incredible cloth-cover edition at my local Dymocks and I knew I had to buy it.
Little Women is the story of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The novel starts with the four girls living with their mother, awaiting their fathers return from the war. The book was published in 1868 in America, and it is a family drama that validates virtue over wealth. I think one of the most beautiful things about this novel is its simplicity. Alcott turned the story of the simple life and good family into this beautiful, moving story that reminds the reader of the importance of perseverance and faith.
Reading books that are centuries older than you can sometimes be a somewhat unpleasant experience. As should probably be expected of a book from the 1800’s there are some pretty heavy sexist themes that are a constant through the novel. When Meg marries her husband, John Brooks, her mother clearly tells her that her new life purpose is to serve her husband and her children. I couldn’t help but feel offended for Meg after reading this, but had to remind myself of the attitudes of the time wherein a women truly did believe their sole purpose was to serve their husbands and produce children, and the exploration of this throughout Little Women provides an interesting insight into how women lived in these times.
The book also has a pretty heavy focus on the role of God in everyday life, the girls and their mother speak of the importance of their faith in guiding them through the hard times. I can’t say this is a literary theme that particularly resonates with me. Being an atheist who has spent most of their life having other people’s religious opinions shoved down my throat I tend to steer clear of reading novels that do the same, however, in Little Women I found this religious focus somewhat endearing. It offers an authentic glance into the lives, attitudes and motivations of the average person in America in the 1800’s, and reminded me that through struggle people usually turn to religion to assuage their fears. Despite the fact that I am not religious, I have learned to appreciate faith when I see it, and the faith of the March family was inspiring in its endurance and integrity.
One of the fantastic things about reading this novel was that the movie that I love so much was almost completely true to a book, besides a few events being reshuffled for the sake of drama. In my mind, the film was an almost perfect recreation of the novel.
Reading Little Women filled me with nostalgia. It reminded me of cuddling up under a blanket on a rainy day and watching the film with my Mum. I read the novel through some particularly dismal days in Belfast, and being wrapped up in a cozy room reading while the rain fell outside was a very cathartic and comforting exercise for me. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a novel that is both simple and beautiful.